What's the story behind Khoo Peng Loong, 邱炳农, the Sarikei Cantonese kapitan after Chan Wei 陳偉 and before Chen Ko Ming 陳高明? These were some of the big Sarikei personalities that moulded Sarikei downtown in the early days.
Peng Loong was born on 23 Feb 1904 in Medan 棉蘭, Sumatra, Indonesia. His ancestors came from Tai Shan 台山county level city, Jiangmen 江门 prefecture level city, Guang Dong, China. In his early days, he achieved excellent academic results at St Xavier's Institution, Penang, Malaysia. After graduation, he came with his parents to Sarikei in 1931 to do business. (Source: 1). He was English educated and did not learn Mandarin.
His pretty and well dressed wife came from Penang. Sarikei people nicknamed her "Modern" for her modern make up. They had two sons, Ron in UK and Stanley in Kuching, and a daughter (Julie) in UK.
Peng Loong initiated a donation drive of $50 each to reach a sum of $1000 to purchase a piece of land at 2.5 mile Repok Road from 鐘海松, a Hakka. Chan Wei 陳偉, the Cantonese kapitan then, and the Hokkien kapitan then, Ling Zhao Bian 林昭邊, (of Chop Lim Heng Teck 林恒德, No. 4 Wharf Road) applied to the government to get approval for this to be designated as the Cantonese and Hokkien cemetery of Sarikei in the 1930s. (Source: 2)
His father was fondly called Khoo Bak Fu and he loved to wear his Chinaman outfit and enjoyed mahjong. His mother was a stylish lady who enjoyed mahjong too. Peng Loong started Kong Con Mau 广忪茂 business at No. 10 Wharf Road (rented from Wong Koh Chiong 黄可川 at $60/month; now occupied by 富春 Fu Chen ) and had a license to sell hunting guns. (Source: 3)
Wong Koh Chiong 黄可川 of Thong Aik 通益 shop (No.1 Wharf Road) tendered for the land which the Bank Road block and Repok Road Block 2 Right are situated now but he passed away before World War II. The land was owned by 2 Wong's and others. Peng Loong became the contractor of these two shop blocks and completed them in 1946. He owned a shop unit at the Bank Road block. (Source: 3)
In the early days, no one had a radio until Chinese Chamber of Commerce spent $500 on a Philip radio. It was locked up on level 2 of the Chamber's building. It was a milestone for Sarikei's trade as the business men needed to know the latest price of commodities such as pepper. No one had the confidence to tune the radio then and Peng Loong, the chairman, would be entrusted to do the task. Imagine the sight of all the big towkays surrounding Peng Loong and the Philip radio anxiously on a daily basis. His son was once the manager of CTC sawmill and the husband of probably the most sophisticatedly dressed lady of her era. (Source: 3)
Peng Loong moved to Sibu in 1951. He later became the Managing Director of Syrikat Peng Guan Distillery of Sarawak, based in Sibu.
In 1955, the old graveyard at Bukit Lima, Sibu, had been fully occupied. The Cantonese under the leadership of Peng Loong formed the Cantonese Association of Sibu to look after its members. The registration was approved on 15 Dec 1955 with Peng Loong as its first Chairman. The new graveyard was built at Aup Quarry Road, Sibu. (Source: 4)
In 1959, he was bestowed OBE by the Queen of England. In 1965, he won seats under SUPP (an opposition party then) as Repok assemblyman and Sibu MP. In the 1970 state election, he defeated Chen Ko Ming by 2399 to 1787 votes. In 1970, he was bestowed PNBS "Datuk" by the Sarawak Governor. He retired in 1978 and passed away in 1979.
Extract from Borneo Post (Source: 5)
English-educated Khoo began his political career as early as the 1950’s. His hospitality and down-to-earth attitude in serving the public was believed to be behind his huge popularity with all the communities in Sarikei and in Sibu.
In 1959, together with 35 people, he co-founded the Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP). The Sibu branch was only officially registered on June 21, 1959, and he was elected its vice-chairman.
In 1963, the Sarawak government held its triennial election on a three tier-system — district level, divisional level and the Legislative Council.
There were then 24 district and urban councils in Sarawak and 429 councillors would be elected to fill all the tiers.
From the 24 councils, represented by the 429 councillors, 109 would be elected to sit in the five Divisional Advisory Councils. The 36 Legislative Council members were, in turn, elected by the five Divisional Advisory Councils.
Khoo represented the SUPP and won the councillor’s post for the second zone of the Sibu Urban District Council (SUDC) when he defeated Ling Beng Siew, chairman of the Sarawak Chinese Association (SCA). Following his victory, Khoo was appointed SUDC chairman — a post he held till 1964 when he was appointed a Federal Member of Parliament for Sibu.
In 1965, Sarawak held its first combined State and Federal elections and Khoo, standing on the SUPP ticket, convincingly won both seats as Repok assemblyman and Sibu MP.
SUPP was an opposition party at the time and it allowed its candidate to contest both state and parliamentary seats during the election.
Capturing both seats was a very rare feat at that time. And for Khoo, popularity came at a heavy price as his political nemesis began plotting his downfall.
However, Khoo stood firm against the allegations hurled at him. His standing as a good leader among the people helped pull him through.
He always believed that to move forward, SUPP members must remain united, speak with one voice and push forward with one principle.
Once, he reportedly told party members that any disagreement among them must be discussed openly to help the party leaders reach a consensus.
As the party grew from strength to strength, the colonial government began putting pressure on it.
Towards the late 1960’s, many of its members defected. Khoo was also approached to quit the party but he did not budge.
By 1974, with age catching up, he became less active in politics. In 1976, to show its appreciation for Khoo’s contributions, the Sibu Urban District Council renamed Pulau Babi Road Jalan Khoo Peng Loong.
Khoo passed away in 1979.
1. Who's Who in Malaysia, 1971
2. Article: Interview with 張武祥 who came to Sarikei in 1927
3. Reader Lidasar
4. Sibu Chinese History Collection 詩巫華族史科集, 1992
5. Borneo Post (by Philip Wong)